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Although the driving experience leaves something to be desired, the 2007 Mercury Mariner Hybrid will please consumers seeking a practical small SUV capable of getting 30 mpg.
Solid acceleration with hybrid powertrain, fuel economy in the 30 mpg range, stylish interior with spacious backseat.
Noisy gasoline engine, added weight of hybrid components detracts from handling, overly stiff brake pedal.
Available Mariner Hybrid SUV Models
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There are no changes on the 2007 Mercury Mariner Hybrid, though its drivetrain warranty now spans five years/60,000 miles (The hybrid components are still backed by eight-year/100,000-mile coverage).
Small SUVs seem like good candidates for hybrid technology. Consumers already like to drive them because they're affordable, capable in rough weather and useful for hauling everything from mountain bikes to newborns. So if you make them more fuel-efficient, even more people will buy them, right? Sort of. Introduced for the 2006 model year, the Mercury Mariner Hybrid is a gasoline/electric version of the regular Mariner. It's also a twin of the Ford Escape Hybrid, and demand for that vehicle has been sporadic. Most likely, it's an image thing. Driving a small, unassuming SUV that gets 30 mpg is impressive, but driving an unusual-looking Prius hatchback that gets 50 mpg is more impressive. Fluctuating fuel prices have also played a role.
If you decide a hybrid SUV is a good fit for your lifestyle, there are now several to choose from: The Saturn Vue Green Line Hybrid is the cheapest, while the Toyota Highlander Hybrid and Lexus RX 400h are the roomiest and most luxurious, but cost thousands more. Priced in the middle, the Mariner Hybrid and its Escape twin are the most fuel-efficient. In keeping with the Mercury's slightly more upscale image, it's available with all-wheel drive only, though its EPA mileage rating is still an outstanding 32 mpg city, 29 mpg highway. Power comes from a 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine working cooperatively with a pair of electric motors. On the road, the Mariner Hybrid feels quicker than the standard four-cylinder Mariner but not as swift as the V6 model.
Downsides to the 2007 Mercury Mariner Hybrid include so-so handling due to the added weight of the hybrid components (about 300 pounds) and some outdated cabin convenience features. The air-conditioner, for instance, lacks the electric compressor found on other hybrids, so cooling for the Mariner Hybrid's interior stops when the gas engine shuts down. The optional navigation system is also an archaic CD-based design (requiring a library of discs to cover all 50 states) with a tiny screen, yet it costs as much as newer DVD-based systems with displays twice as large. On the plus side, the backseat is spacious and comfortable enough to accommodate a pair of adults or three children. Plus, even with the battery pack taking up space under the floor, the Hybrid's cargo bay is only 2 cubic feet smaller than the regular Mariner's.
Driving and owning a Mariner Hybrid is not without its compromises, but for shoppers who like the idea of a vehicle that basically functions like a regular SUV while getting 30 mpg, Mercury's hybrid SUV merits consideration.
A compact SUV, the 2007 Mercury Mariner Hybrid is available in one four-door body style. Standard amenities include 16-inch alloy wheels; air-conditioning; an in-dash CD changer; a power driver seat; a leather-wrapped steering wheel; wood-grain interior trim; cruise control; a trip computer; keyless entry and power windows, mirrors and locks. The optional Premium Package provides heated leather seats, an upgraded seven-speaker audio system and a CD-based navigation system with a hybrid energy flow/fuel consumption display. The above items are also available as stand-alone options, as is a moonroof.
The Mariner Hybrid power plant consists of a 2.3-liter gasoline engine and two electric motor/generators. Mercury calls the transmission a continuously variable transmission (CVT), but there's no rotating belt as in a conventional CVT. Instead, the motors work in concert with the gas engine through a planetary gearset to provide seamless power and maximum efficiency. Once behind the wheel of a Mariner Hybrid, all you have to do is move the shift lever to "D" and press the gas pedal. Available only with all-wheel drive, the Mariner Hybrid is rated at 32 mpg city and 29 mpg highway, making it one of the most fuel-efficient SUVs on the market.
Four-wheel antilock disc brakes with emergency brakeforce distribution and brake assist are standard, as is a tire-pressure monitoring system. The optional Premium Package includes front seat-mounted side airbags, full-length head curtain airbags with a rollover sensor and rear parking sensors; you can also buy the airbags separately. In the backseat, you'll find three-point seatbelts and head restraints all the way across.
The NHTSA gave the 2007 Mercury Mariner Hybrid four out of five stars for driver and front-passenger protection in frontal impacts. In side-impact crash tests, it received five stars for both front- and rear-seat occupants. In frontal-offset crash tests conducted by the IIHS, the Mariner rates "Acceptable" (the second highest on a scale of four). When equipped with side airbags, the Mariner merits a "Good" rating (the highest) from the IIHS for side-impact protection; without the bags, it rates "Poor" (the lowest).
The Mariner Hybrid's stylish two-tone interior is tastefully accented with satin-finish faux aluminum, chrome and wood-grain trim. The backseat is roomy and comfortable enough to keep a pair of adults content on road trips. There are 26.7 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats, and you can fold them down to open up 66 cubic feet of capacity. Knocks against the Mariner Hybrid's interior include an air-conditioning compressor that cools the cabin only when the gasoline engine is running. Using the "Max A/C" keeps the engine from shutting down, but negates the fuel-saving benefits of the idle-stop feature. Additionally, it's hard to justify paying extra for the navigation system, given its diminutive screen size, clunky interface and the need to swap map CDs when you cross state lines.
With a four-cylinder gasoline engine and a pair of electric motors working on its behalf, the 2007 Mercury Mariner Hybrid feels nearly as quick as the V6 Mariner and returns outstanding fuel mileage. Unfortunately, the gas engine makes quite a racket during hard acceleration. Ride quality is smooth but handling is unimpressive, as the extra weight of the hybrid components gives the Mariner Hybrid a top-heavy feel when rounding corners. The brakes can be hard to modulate, as the hybrid SUV's regenerative braking system results in an overly stiff initial pedal feel. Like the regular Mariner, the Mariner Hybrid has a little more insulation than its Escape counterpart, so you can expect slightly less wind and road noise.
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